Sunday, May 14, 2006

Repentance found in the phrase "Stop Sinning"

John 5:14; 8:11

Two passages exist where Jesus tells an individual not to sin: 5:14 and 8:11. In 8:11, the woman caught in adultery is told to go and sin no more. While an analysis on how this phrase may be linked to repentance could be convincing (and I think it is), because I don't accept this text as an original part of the text of the FG, it would be inappropriate to utilize it for the current purposes (for support, see a recent work giving solid evidence for the spuriousness of this text: William L. Peterson, “OUDE EGO [KATA]KRINO. John 8:11, The Protevangelium IACOBI, and The History of the Pericope Adulterae,” in Sayings of Jesus: Canonical and Non-Canonical: Essays in Honour of Tjitze Baarda, eds. Willaim L. Peterson, Johan S. Vos, and Henk J. De Jonge (New York: Brill, 1997), 191–221.

However, the text in 5:14 does not pose the same textual problems. While the connection between the sin and the disease may be unclear, Jesus’ words about what he is supposed to do are not. Jesus’ words have been translated in two ways: “stop sinning” and “do not continue sinning any longer” which essentially mean the same. Grammatically, some have assumed that a present imperative that is prohibitive must be understood as “stop” doing something. However, while “that may be the correct interpretation in this instance, … there are too many exceptions to this grammatical ‘rule’ to base the interpretation on the present tense" (see Carson, John, 246, n. 1). Carson points out that the present imperative is used to stress urgency (as compared to an aorist imperative). Therefore, this is essentially an injunction to repent. Jesus is telling him to change his ways, turn his life around, and turn to God. The command to “stop sinning” is conceptually equivalent to “turn away from sin.” The narrative about the man who received sight in chapter 9 may be viewed in contrast to the lame man in chapter 5: while the blind man is viewed positively, the lame man is portrayed negatively. As the pericope closes, the reader is left viewing the lame man as unbelieving. Yet, Jesus confronts one who does not believe with these words: “stop sinning.” The context is salvific, not of progressive sanctification. The conclusions by some that calling for unbelievers to turn from their sin is adding works to the gospel is seriously questioned by this verse. It is fascinating that in the discussions on repentance in the FG, no one was found who raised this verse as a possibility.

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